Sunday, February 7, 2016

A one-sided campaign for nuclear energy

Director Robert Stone (left) and British climate change expert Mark Lynas in the documentary "Pandora´s Promise."
Director Robert Stone (left) and British climate change expert Mark Lynas in the documentary "Pandora's Promise." JAMES HOLLOW
About the movie
Pandora's Promise
MPAA rating:
Running time:
Release date:
Richard Rhodes; Stewart Brand; Mark Lynas; Michael Shellenberger; Charles Till
Directed by:
Robert Stone


In Pandora's Promise, a stacked-deck documentary in support of nuclear energy, director Robert Stone holds a cute little yellow meter aloft, measuring the levels of radiation at Chernobyl and Fukushima, sites of two of the world's most disastrous nuclear power plant failures.

And then he takes his uR instrument to measure the radiation levels in places where there have been no accidents. The readings in New York City and Rio de Janeiro clock significantly higher. "Natural background radiation," it seems, is everywhere.

Stone's film, which lines up several former antinuclear environmental activists - Apollo Alliance cofounder Michael Shellenberger, British climate change expert Mark Lynas, and others - to discuss their 180-degree turnaround, does indeed make some convincing arguments. More than 80 percent of France's energy is nuclear, and it has the lowest carbon emissions of any country in Europe, and the cheapest energy, too.

But keep in mind what Stone's picture reveals at one point: that when the Shoreham power plant on Long Island was being readied for commission in the 1980s, a "community" campaign to stop the reactor from opening was, in fact, funded by a consortium of coal-power interests.

Pandora's Promise, too, despite its cast of eco-minded talking heads, has been financed in no small degree by interests backing a new-generation nuclear reactors.

This isn't to say that the case the film makes for nuclear energy - that it is safe, that it is cleaner, that it will turn back global warming - may not be true. Only that its marshaling of the facts is one-sided, leaving many questions, and considerable scientific evidence, unexplored.


Pandora's Promise **1/2 (out of four stars)

Directed by Robert Stone. With Stewart Brand, Gwyneth Cravens, Mark Lynas, Michael Shellenberger, and others. Distributed by CNN Films.

Running time: 1 hour, 27 mins.

Parent's guide: No MPAA rating (adult themes)

Playing at: Ritz Bourse

Contact Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or, or follow on Twitter @Steven_Rea. Read his blog, On Movies Online, at


Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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